CASF requests pushing $200 million already


Big ask for a big project.

I’m counting about twenty applications for California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) grants and loans tonight. The deadline just passed, and the dust hasn’t settled from the email service list yet. So there might be – probably will be – more. But the total is pushing close to $200 million, which means there’s going to be some tough decisions coming at the California Public Utilities Commission.

It looks like the combined proposals will go well over the CASF’s authorized limit, let alone what they have on hand.

The big one is from the Northern California Regional Middle Mile Infrastructure Project (NCRMMI). They want $119 million. Pretty much everything in the kitty now, and more.

Here’s what they say they’re trying to do…

The overall NCRMMI Plan is a fiber-based middle-mile broadband infrastructure that crosses the 16 rural counties in Northern California: Butte, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sonoma, Tehama, Trinity, and Yolo.

This NCRMMI Project area encompasses nearly 25 percent of the state’s geography, and 1,591,571 million people. There are 53 Incorporated Communities, 245 Census Designated Places, 615,412 households, and 1085 Census Block Groups in 191 Zip Code Areas.

Most of the rest of the projects are much smaller, in the six figure range, although there are some FTTH proposals in the multi-million dollar range. Race Communications is back in the hunt, re-submitting their applications from last October for Boron and Mojave, adding California City and some high other desert towns in Kern County, plus some more communities in Mono County. Their total request is up around the $40 million mark.

ViaSat is also back with a vengeance. They want $11 million and the rights to a swath of California from Mexico to Oregon. With their satellite Internet service they can reach just about anyone, but there’s more than a little controversy about the concept of state subsidies for it. Any area that they claim will be ineligible for CASF funding for several years.

That’s a quick look. More to come.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.